Molotov giving an account to the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R.
on October 31, 1939 of the new achievements of Russian diplomacy
remarked., with contemptuous sarcasm: " Neither British nor French
guarantees were of help to Poland. To this day, in fact, nobody knows
what these c guarantees ' were . . . the example of luckless Poland had
recently demonstrated how little pacts of Mutual Assistance signed by
some of the European Great Powers are sometimes worth. . . ."
During the course of the Debate on the Crimean Declaration the
British Foreign Secretary did his utmost to prove that no-one, including
himself knew of what' these 3 obligations consisted. Eden was now con-
cerned with convincing his audience that none of these guarantees had
covered the eventuality of a Russian action threatening Poland's indepen-
dence. . . .
Owing to the persistence of certain M.P.'s regarding this problem
and their ' indiscretion' on the topic, it was necessary to clarify the
situation to some degree both in the Debate and in the Press. The question
had already been raised before in the House of Commons in October
1939 and the Government's representative had on this occasion answered
. . . " During the negotiations which led up to the signature of the
(Anglo-Polish) agreement, it was understood that the agreement should
only cover the case of aggression by Germany; and the Polish Govern-
ment confirm that this is so."
In " Britain's obligations to Poland " (Glasgow, 1945) John McKee,
discussed the problem., commenting on this reply,
"That word ' understood ' was rather an enigma. One meaning of the
verb * understand ' is 6 to assume.' But no one was interested in assump-
tions, the query concerned facts. If there had been an honest explicit
reservation., why did the reply not read * It was explicitly agreed ' ? Better
still, why did the Government not publish the operative clause ? 'And the
Polish Government confirm that this is so' the reply ended. Would that
embarrassed Government be in a position to do otherwise ? On examina-
tion, the answer was not so definite after all"
And the author continued the adventures of these explanations of the
British guarantee given by the British Government:—
" It was not until 15th December, 1944, that more light was thrown upon
the subject. Speaking in the debate on Poland, Major Petherick, M.P.,
observed: * Some of us know that there was an unpublished protocol to
that (the Anglo-Polish) Treaty, a protocol which I have seen with my own
eyes.' There was then an unpublished clause. His next words were rather
unexpected. ' That protocol,' the Major continued, c if I read it correctly,
and I believe I did, further reinforce the obligations of His Majesty's Govern-
ment to the Polish nation.9 This and, no doubt, words spoken by Captain
Alan Graham were too much for The Times. On the following day it com-
plained, in the querulous manner so peculiarly its own, about a 'widely
prevalent misunderstanding about the guarantee given to Poland in 1939.'
* This guarantee,9 it continued, brushing aside what Major Petherick had
revealed on the previous day, c was directed exclusively to the contingency
of aggression by Germany.* The assertion was not allowed to pass un-
challenged. On the 20th? The Tims carried a letter from the Polish